10/20/2010 2:59PM

They Might Be Giants


My San Francisco Giants have been in the World Series only twice since the Breeders’ Cup began in 1984, and this year could be third. If so, here’s hoping things turn out differently this time, on both the diamond and the oval.

Baseball and the Breeders’ Cup are inextricably linked each fall since the Cup now often falls just a day or two after the latest possible date for a seventh and final  World Series game. That’s how it would work again this year: a game 7 (if necessary) on Thursday, Nov. 4 with the Cup races following on Friday the 5th and Saturday the 6th.

After beating the Phillies 3-0 in the third game of the National League Championship Series yesterday, the Giants have an improbable 2-1 lead and are two victories away from facing the Rangers or Yankees in the World Series. The Phillies were heavy favorites going into the NLCS, deservedly so, and even now feel like even-money to take 3 of the next 4. 

The Giants? I root for weird teams, none of them based in my hometown. Apparently my contrarianism began in childhood, so instead of rooting for the home team I went for the franchises led by my favorite player in each sport in the 1960’s, pledging lifetime allegiance to the Celtics (because of Bill Russell), the Colts (Johnny Unitas), the Red Wings (Gordie Howe) and, most of all, the Giants (Willie Mays). 

For the most part, these proved to be fortuitous alignments in the ensuing 45 years. Since 1965, the Celtics have won 9 NBA Championships, the Red Wings have four Stanley Cups and the Colts have won two Super Bowls. As for the Giants,I’m still waiting. They had two chances, suffering one humiliating loss and one heartbreaker.

In 1989, the Giants made their first Series appearance in 27 years and were swept by the Oakland A’s in four games, during which they became the only team in Series history never to have the lead at any point in any game. More memorable was what happened half an hour before the scheduled start of Game 3: An earthquake that rocked the Bay Area and delayed the game for 10 days.

When play resumed on Oct. 27, the Giants were shellacked 9-6 and 13-7, games I watched from the Diplomat Hotel in Hallandale Beach, Fla., where a week later that Sunday Silence-Easy Goer BC Classic didn’t turn out quite the way I hoped either.

In 2002, the Series overlapped an early Oct. 26 Breeders’ Cup at Arlington Park. On Thursday night I skipped the press party and stayed in the hotel watching the Giants win Game 5 in a 16-4 rout that gave them a 3-2 Series lead as the series went back to Anaheim for Saturday and Sunday night games.

On Saturday afternoon, Volponi won the Classic in a head-scratcher, and some very suspicious-looking Pick-6 payoffs were posted. But all was well that night as the Giants had a 5-0 lead in the 7th and were eight outs away from their first championship since 1954. Don’t make me relive all the subsequent details, but they somehow blew the 5-0 lead and lost 6-5, then lost again on Sunday, by which time the Drexel boys’ Fix-Six scheme was beginning to emerge.

So here’s to happier Cup and Series results in 2010, if the Giants even get that far. Whether they do or not, they’re an easy team to root for, with their likeable young aces Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain and a couple of rookies whose names alone make them sound like throwbacks: Tonight’s starting battery is 21-year-old pitcher Madison Bumgarner and 23-year-old catcher Buster Posey. The team is all arm and little bat   until last night’s 3-0 relative slaughter, all four of their playoff victories had been one-run games, and all their postseason slugging has come from an obscure journeyman named Cody Ross, a onetime aspiring rodeo clown.

First pitch tonight is 7:57 pm ET.


[Update 11:43 pm: The Giants are one victory away from the World Series. They just took a 3-1 lead in the NLCS with a 6-5 victory over the Phillies on a Juan Uribe acrifice fly in the bottom of the 9th. Buster Posey went 4-for-5 with two doubles and two RBI's. Game 5 is Thursday night, a rematch of Game 1 starters Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay.]